The National Ballet of Cuba's "Cinderella" is an enchanting production at The Orange County Center for the Performing Arts. Instead of the more well known Prokofiev score, they use the Johann Strauss, Jr. music, which sets it squarely in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The curtain features a pictorial story of Cinderella, with five pictures: The father and daughter, the mother and her two daughters, the father's grave, his face (spirit) with tears streaming down as he sees what's become of Cinderella who is scrubbing the floor while the mother and two step-daughters tyrannize her. The opening scene is Leontyne's house, with red curtains as a proscenium arch, and grey concrete walls that almost have the feel of a prison. The daughters are so mean that they are almost comical about it. The dance lesson features the sisters and Monsieur Toucour, with Cinderella dancing around the periphery, and the mother playing the piano, but Cinderella still can't control herself, and dances around the room dragging the piano with her. The Fairy scene is especially beautiful. We have swirling light patters to indicate the Fairies, with dancers all in white and Laura Hormigon as the Fairy Godmother, Rava. After transforming Cinderella, she accompanies her to the ball, and matches the Prima Ballerina in leaping split after leaping split around the stage. Aihaydee Carreno is a scintillating Cinderella. She explodes around the stage with leaps and twirls as she makes the Prince fall in love with her at the ball. She's elegantly subservient as she's bullied by her step-mother and sisters, but just can't contain herself, and dances at every opportunity. In the final scene she wears the only tutu in the production, and twirls around the stage like a top in one of the most athletically intense finales I've every seen. What's most impressive is her economy of movement. There's not a single quiver that's out of place as she glides effortlessly through her routines, whether simply standing, sitting, or spinning. There aren't a lot of flying leaps, but rather clockwork precision as she and the Prince are like whirling dervishes on point. Osmay Molina and Aihaydee Carreno are one of the most magical couples I've seen in ballet. They know what to expect from each other and feed off the other's energy to become a duo that much greater than the sum of the parts. This "Cinderella" also has some outstanding ensemble work. The entertainments in the last scene are specially good. We have classical ballet with a flamenco flavor with maracas, followed by a szardaz. The step-sisters are off to the side making snide mocking gestures, and are finally called out to dance. The Prince's younger brother is all over the place, as he can hardly control himself. After jumping into the arms of Toucour, he finally marries Fanchon, and all live happily ever after in this magical production of "Cinderella" by The National Ballet of Cuba at The Orange County Center for the Performing Arts.

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Last Updated January 25, 1998 by Paul Berenson